Moving around in a clothing store, Randa finally picks up a yellow shirt to give to her husband for their 23rd Valentine’s Day together.
“I am so excited to celebrate Valentine’s Day to break the routine of our life,” Randa Faisal, 43, who works for the UN’s mine action services, told The National.
Mrs Faisal has made it a habit to organise something special for her husband every Valentine’s Day, by reserving a restaurant and decorating the family home, without ever tiring of the celebration.
Now she celebrates the day with her family of five children and her husband Nazir Khader, 52, in her home in the Tal Al Hawa neighbourhood of the city.
“We celebrate love as a family not only couples, my children bring gifts for me to insist on the importance of this occasion in our life.”
Such precious moments are made more important by the losses and hardship the family has endured throughout the years.
They lost their home on the 12th floor of the Italian complex in Gaza in the 2014 war.
“After losing my home where I spent 14 years, I wanted to let my family feel that losing tangible property is not a big deal as long as we are together and we are fine,” Mr Khader, who owns an architecture office, said.
The family moved between two other houses before settling in their new home a year ago.
In Gaza’s streets most people were walking home holding bags full of essential goods such as groceries and bread. There were no signs of celebrations, in contrast to past years when shops were decorated with red balloons and flowers, and young people bought red flowers to give to their secret love interests.
Four consecutive Israeli wars and economic troubles have cast their shadow on the city and its residents.
“Usually at this time of the year, we would be working around the clock and the shops were full of customers who would come to buy gifts to give to their lovers, but unfortunately it’s not the same now,” Rwaida Hassan, 25, who works in a cosmetics and perfume shop in the Al-Remal neighbourhood in the centre of Gaza told The National.
“In the past, the streets of Gaza would tell you that Valentine’s Day is approaching and embrace you with warmth and love, but now unfortunately you feel that people have lost something from inside, preventing them from enjoying such an occasion”.
Randa said she no longer celebrates the occasion with her husband of 10 years.
“I can’t now because I respect the feelings of others who have lost their loved ones, the last war has broken us,” she said.
But dreams still endure.
“I want to spend one Valentine’s Day in Paris — someday I hope I will,” she said.
Nagham Mohanna – The National